Thursday, July 31, 2014

Public hearing on SSL, Lanjigarh expansion ends peacefully

Business Standard, July 30, 2014
Vedanta's plan for a six-fold expansion in the capacity of its 1 MTPA alumina refinery in Odisha's Kalahandi district drew a positive response from locals during a public hearing today. 

The public hearing at Lanjigarh to decide Sesa Sterlite Ltd (SSL) refinery expansion project concluded successfully in presence of district officials and the authorities of State Pollution Control Board (SPCB), a company spokesman said in a statement. 

The public hearing was held by SPCB on basis of SSL's fresh application for environmental clearance to expand the refinery's capacity from one Million Tonne per Annum (MTPA) to six MTPA, Additional district magistrate (ADM) of Kalahandi Sasadhara Naik said. 

"There was interaction with public on the issue. The statements and opinion of people of project affected areas in the public hearing have been recorded," the ADM said adding the public hearing was held in a peaceful manner. 

The public hearing concluded "successfully" in a peaceful atmosphere, the SSL spokesman said. 

The company continues to hold on to its vision for overall growth of Kalahandi and expansion of the refinery will play a key role in achieving the same, he said adding people of Lanjigarh have now understood that the economic growth of the area will lead to their overall prosperity. 

More than a thousand people attended the event and showcased positive attitude towards allowing SSL for the expansion, he said. 

Sreedhar Pesnia, President of Lanjigarh Anchalika Bikas Parishad said, VAL is playing a key role in overall socio-economic growth of the area. "Additional operations at the plant will mean more employment and economic empowerment of the people of Kalahandi," he said 

Binod Gaud, President of Lanjigarh Yuva Sangha said, locals supported the expansion of the project as it will open fresh avenues for the youth who for decades have continued to migrate to other states in search of employment. 

Block Chairman Mrs Sasmita Majhi said people of Lanjigarh have shown immense interest in expansion of the refinery in hopes of employment and economic prosperity. SSL has played a key role in changing the district's socio-economic landscape and people expect the expansion will boost the ongoing growth drive, she said. 

The public hearing comes as a boost for the aluminium division of SSL as people close to the development note that the state government is on the verge of allocating three laterite mines to the company to meet the immediate raw material requirements of the refinery, officials said. 

The expansion of the refinery is expected to boost the overall industrial climate of Odisha, they said. 

Villagers of project affected areas and elected representatives like ward member, sarpanch, samiti members, Zilla parishad chair person and local MLA participated in the process. Mitrasen Majhi, regional officer of regional pollution control board conducted the public hearing and ADM on behalf of collector was present.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Odisha government to soon grant laterite deposits to Anil Agarwal's alumina project

Economic Times, July 29, 2014
BHUBANESHWAR: In what should serve as a relief for Anil Agarwal's alumina project, the Odisha government will soon grant three laterite deposits that can partially feed the company's controversial refinery in Kalahandi. Raw material uncertainty has plagued Vedanta Aluminium, now merged with Sesa Sterlite, ever since August of last year when local tribals, in a first of its kind referendum ordered by the Supreme Court, rejected the mining project. 

Laterite, with some beneficiation and combined with the bauxite the company has been forced to import or source from Gujarat, can be used input to make alumina. According to senior official in the state and the company, the government has zeroed in on three such deposits, covering an area of 140 hectares near Jaipur, in Koraput district. 

"They had 5-6 applications, and the government has approved proscpting leases for 3 deposits. This is for prospecting, it will then progress to a mining lease," said a senior government official who asked not to be named. 

A 72mt bauxite deposit atop Niyamgiri hills was to be mined by the state firm, Odisha Mining Corporation for the 1million tone refinery. Local administration is scheduled to conduct a public hearing for the expansion of this refinery, from 1million tone annual capacity to 6mt, and of its captive power plant from 75 MW to 285 MWon Wednesday. A more long term solution to the project Patnaik's though will be a captive bauxite supply mined in the vicinity. 

According to those in the know, Naveen Patnaik's government is pushing for OMC to develop the 224 mt Karlapat deposit, and the smaller 22mt deposit of Majingamali that can then supply raw material to Sesa Sterlite's aluminum project. The stat has recommended the two deposits be reserved for its PSU; The centre is yet to approve these allocations to OMC. 

Sesa Sterlite claims to have invested Rs 50,000 crore in setting up this alumina refinery and a 0.5mtpa smelter and captive 1215 MW power plant in Jharsuguda, banking on their MoU with OMC for a supply of 150 million tones of bauxite. The project has been battling opposition from both local tribals opposed to the mining, environmentalist who they claim are funded by global rivals, and Congress politicians of the former UPA government. 

Laterite, unlike bauxite, figures in the list of 'minor' industrial minerals, and its exploitation will not require central government approval. According to former state mines minister, the company has already experimented with laterite from Andhra Pradesh. 

BPUT Drive to Tide over Faculty Crunch

The New Indian Express, July 30, 2014
BHUBANESWAR: The faculty crunch in Government engineering colleges is all set to be resolved with Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT) undertaking a major drive for recruitment of teaching staff.
BPUT will recruit 225 faculties for six Government colleges under it. Tipped to be one of the biggest recruitment drives of the university till date, it is expected to fill up most vacant posts in the colleges.
Sources said the entire process will be completed before the academic session 2014-15 commences by September-end.
The State Government recently sanctioned 17 posts of professor, 23 posts of associate professor and 28 posts of assistant professor for CET, Bhubaneswar. For Government College of Engineering, Kalahandi, seven posts of professor, 12 posts of associate professor and 31 posts of assistant professor have been sanctioned. Government College of Engineering, Keonjhar has been sanctioned six posts of professor, 10 posts of associate professor and 28 posts of assistant professor.
Seven posts of professor, nine posts of associate professor and 28 posts of assistant professor will be filled up in Parala Maharaja Engineering College, Berhampur. A few teaching staff will also be recruited for MTech courses offered by BPUT on its campus at Rourkela.
Sources said more than 3,800 applications have been received against 225 positions. Lowest number of applications has been received for courses like Architecture and Textile Engineering. Maximum applications have been received for Electrical Engineering and Electronics and Telecommunication Engineering courses.
A senior BPUT official said in case they do not get qualified candidates for any position, another round of recruitment will be conducted. But the quality of teaching staff will not be compromised. After recruitment for teaching staff is completed, recruitment of non-teaching staff will be conducted immediately. More than 100 non-teaching staff will be recruited for the colleges.
The Government engineering colleges have been grappling with faculty crunch for quite sometime now. With growing student strength in the last one year, the need for additional manpower had become an urgent requirement.

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

BPUT Links to Get Fast Reach by Sept

The New Indian Express, July 29, 2014
BHUBANESWAR: In a bid to boost effective connectivity, the Biju Patnaik University of Technology (BPUT) has put in place a video conferencing network which will establish a link between the State Government, the University and its constituent colleges by the end of September.
The need for a better communication model was discussed at BPUT’s last board meeting. National Informatics Centre (NIC) was given the responsibility to set up the video conferencing network which will link the Governor’s Office, BPUT Vice-Chancellor’s office, Employment and Technical Education and Training (ETET) Department and the five constituent colleges under BPUT in the first phase.
The five constituent colleges are College of Engineering and Technology (CET), Government College of Engineering (Keonjhar), Government College of Engineering (Bhawanipatna), Parala Maharaja Engineering College (Berhampur) and BPUT’s own campus in Rourkela.
The first phase of the project is expected to cost `2.5 crore.
BPUT Registrar Mihir Nayak said the new communication network will not only enable faster communication between the State Government and the University but also make it easier for the ETET Department to monitor the progress of the constituent colleges.
Earlier, it used to take an unusually long time to communicate with far off colleges like Government College of Engineering (Bhawanipatna) and BPUT headquarters in Rourkela. Now, the delay will be eliminated, Nayak added.
Work on the first phase of the project is expected to be completed by September-end. For the second phase of the project, affiliated colleges of BPUT will be linked to the main connection.
NIC has been given the responsibility to provide the base facility for video conferencing network in 150 technical colleges including five Government engineering colleges. It will also look after the maintenance of the network for five years.

VAL expansion: Public hearing tomorrow

Times of India, July 29, 2014
BHAWANIPATNA: A public hearing is scheduled for Wednesday at Lanjigarh in connection with expansion of the refinery and captive power plant of Vedanta Aluminium Limited (VAL).

The company had moved the ministry of environment and forests (MoEF) for increasing the refinery capacity from 1 mtpa to 6 mtpa and CPP 75 MW to 285 MW.

The MoEF had earlier revoked the company's expansion proposal, citing violation of environmental laws.

"We are quite hopeful of positive response from the local people," said newly-appointed chief operating officer (COO) of the plant Krishna Kanti Dave.

The Odisha State Pollution Control Board (OSPCB) will conduct the public hearing on behalf of MoEF to be attended by top district officials. "The meeting, to be attended by project affected people, will be video-recorded," said collector (Kalahandi) Bijay Ketan Upadhyay. "No outsider would be allowed to the meeting," he added.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Orissa high court orders probe into Rs 5 crore paddy procurement fraud

Times of India, July 28, 2014
,TNN | Jul 28, 2014, 09.51 AM IST
BHAWANIPATNA: The Orissa high court (HC) has ordered the Kalahandi district administration to conduct an inquiry into alleged large-scale irregularities in paddy procurement.

In the kharif marketing season 2012-13, 69,589 quintal paddy was procured by primary agricultural cooperative society (PACS) of Temra Mandi in Koksara block, about 65 km from here, out of 34 lakh MT procured in the district.

Out of 537 farmers of Temra mandi, 118 fake names have been shown in the PACS register, alleged a PIL filed by Rajeev Gupta in high court. Of the 118 names, 18 are BPL card-holders.

While hearing the petition, a division bench comprising Justices Pradip Mohanty and Biswajit Mohanty served notices to managing director, Odisha State Civil Supplies Corporation Limited, Kalahandi collector, sub-collector, Dharamgarh, and civil supplies officer to reply within four weeks.

The petitioner alleged that a fraud to the tune of Rs 5 crore was committed by falsely mentioning the 118 farmers' names that they sold the paddy in the mandi, but they were not the actual beneficiaries.

He also informed the court that a few rice millers purchased paddy at Rs 700 a quintal from the farmers as against minimum support price of Rs 1,250 and re-sold them at the mandi by falsely showing the farmers' names as sellers.

Stating that the rice millers earned profit of Rs 550 a quintal, the petitioner said although the purpose of the mandis is to help farmers get their due price, the entire system has been manipulated through a nexus between millers and officials.

Collector (Kalahandi) Bijay Ketan Upadhyay said police are inquiring into whether bank accounts had been opened in the fake names and accordingly reply will be given to the court.

Friday, July 25, 2014

Odisha sitting on over 300 PL applications for bauxite mines

Business Standard, July 25, 2014
Applications are pending at the level of the district collector, directorate of mines and steel & mines department
The Odisha state government is yet to dispose off over 300 pending PL (prospecting license) applications for bauxite deposits in Kalahandi district and undivided Koraput region.
Larsen & Toubro (L&T), Vedanta Aluminium Ltd (now ), Jindal Steel & Power Ltd (), Jindal Photo Ltd, Industries, RSB Metaltech Ltd and state owned Odisha Mining Corporation () are among the wait listed contenders to obtain PL over bauxite mines. The pendency rate of such applications ranges from two to 25 years, reveals a written reply given to the state assembly by steel & mines minster Prafulla Kumar Mallick.
The PL applications are pending at the level of the district collector, directorate of mines and steel & mines department.
Vedanta Group firm Sesa Sterlite that is struggling to keep operations of its one million tonne Lanjigarh refinery afloat with imported bauxite, has pending applications over bauxite deposits like Kachalekha, Porapal, Titijhola, Nalachua, Adarmajhi and Choronimaribhata to name a few. Among these applications, the mines directorate has recommended one mine- Lachhuani to the state government for rejection.
After a failed bid to mine bauxite atop the ecologically fragile, the company had urged the state government to allot alternative bauxite mines in its favour. The Union ministry of environment & forests () had said no to mine bauxite over Niyamgiri after the local Dongaria tribals unanimously trumped the project in a referendum last year.
While the mines directorate has recommended one bauxite lease- Sarambai in favour of Aditya Birla Group owned Hindalco Industries, it has referred two other mines to the government for rejection- Sasubohumlai and Chandgiri for rejection.
Two other mines- Kharkhijiguda and Aligaon where Hindalco is an applicant are pending at the mines directorate and collectorate level respectively.
RSB Metaltech that has proposed 0.70 million tonne per annum (mtpa) alumina refinery at Rayagada, has filed PL applications over a host of bauxite deposits like Jilanga, Seulipadar, Tijimali and Hadakarsi-Kandala-Karaniber.

Odisha to up power generation capacity, may get new UMPPs

Business Standard, July 24, 2014
Coal-rich Odisha is set to take a giant leap in raising its power generation capacity by proposing two more 4,000 MW ultra mega power projects...

Coal-rich Odisha is set to take a giant leap in raising its power generation capacity by proposing two more 4,000 MW ultra mega power projects (UMPPs) in the state. The state already has one UMPP at Tilaiya in the construction stage and another one at Bedabahal where final round of bidding is expected to be completed soon.
The state government has already identified land and coal mines for the proposed two new UMPPs and has sought Centre's approval for coal block allocation so that bidding for the projects could start soon. The state government will approve the two new sites over next couple of months and then bring the projects before the Centre for approval so that the projects could be awarded latest by first half of next fiscal.
“Two sites, Bijoypatna in Chandbali tehsil of Bhadrak district and another at Narlas-Kasinga sub division of Kalahandi district have been identified for setting up additional UMPPs in Odisha. Bankhui coal block has already been allocated for the first UMPP while Ghogarpalli and Dipside of Ghogarpalli coal blocks has been identified for the second project but coal ministry's approval is awaited,” said an official in Power Finance Corporation, the nodal agency for the development UMPP projects through special purpose vehicle (SPV). “Once all approvals are given, we would immediately put the projects under the bidding route,” the official added.
On its part PFC has already set up two shell companies Sakhigopal Integrated Power Co. and Ghogarpalli Integrated Power Co. so that projects could be put on fast track mode once approvals are through.
Odisha is expected to get about 5300 MW of power from different proposed UMPPs. This will also be the highest in any state from these large projects. After the UMPPs are commissioned the state is expected to have surplus power to the tune of 3000-4000 MW that would be used to meet energy needs of deficit states as well as sale in the open market.
The Modi government has identified UMPP programme for giving a push to rapid capacity expansion in the country. Apart from the two new UMPPs in Odisha, exploratory exercise is also going on to initiate such projects in the states of Bihar and Jharkhand. Efforts are on to complete the bidding for two UMPPs at Bedabahal in Odisha and Cheyyur in Tamil Nadu.

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Kalahandi Rivers in Spate

The New Indian Express, July 22, 2014
BHAWANIPATNA:  Torrential rain for the last three days has thrown normal life out of gear and led to flood in major rivers of Kalahandi district.
Till Monday morning, Thuamul Rampur block received highest rainfall of 405 mm followed by Kalampur with 255 mm, Jaipatna 221 mm, Koksara 129 mm, M Rampur 73 mm, Bhawanipatna 50 mm, Kesinga 64 mm, Karlamunda 63 mm and Narla 60 mm.
Due to heavy rain in its catchment areas, river Hati has been in spate. Water was flowing at a height of four feet on the bridge over the river on NH-26 near Junagarh. A group of 10 ‘Kawarias’, who had visited Shiva temple in Junagarh, could not return due to flooded bridge. After several hours of efforts, fire fighters rescued them.
Low lying areas and agricultural land in Matikhal, Jamguda, Biripur, Balichada villages of Kalampur block, Kutengaon, Palas, Bargaon, Talmala, Sahajkana and Mankadsola villages of Junagarh block have been inundated and road link to the villages has been cut off.
In the wake of rising water level of Hati and Tel, power generation from Indravati project has been stopped since Sunday night.
In Mangalpur barrage of Indravati irrigation system, one of the six gates has been opened and 30 cubic metre of water per second is being released to river Hati. Though water level of Indravati reservoir is steadily increasing, it is much below the danger mark. The dead level and top water level of the reservoir are 613 metres and 642 metres respectively. On Monday, the reservoir’s water level stood at 630.17 metre.
Road networks in rural pockets of Thuamul Rampur, Kalampur, Jaipatna, Dharamgarh and Junagarh have been disrupted at many places due to breaches.
Water level of river Tel is rising menacingly near Nandol, Turkel and Belkhandi. Although no flood alert has been issued yet, water level of Udanti, Ret and Rahul rivers has been rising due to incessant rain. Block level officials have been put on alert to meet exigency.

Monday, July 21, 2014


The Pioneer, July 21, 2014
Rly Min agrees to meet Odisha MPs to discuss issues
BJD MPs earlier this week met Railway Minister V Sadananda Gowda in New Delhi and submitted a memorandum to him seeking many new railway projects for Odisha and national status to the ongoing Khordha-Balangir line project.
The State Government has promised to provide free land, including private land for the Daspalla-Balangir railway stretch, and to share 50 per cent of expenditure for the project, the memorandum said.
The other demands included extension of dedicated freight corridor from Dankuni to Brahmapur, East-West and East-South rail corridor in Angul-Talcher belt’s Basundhara Area, Nayagarh-Bansapani rail corridor, construction of Bhadrachalam Road-Talcher rail link via Malkangiri-Jeypore and Lanjigarh, Sambalpur –Brahmapur link via Bhishmgiri, speed execution of the Talcher-Bimalgarh line, commencement of the Bargarh Nuapada via Padampur and elevation of Bhubaneswar and Puri stations to the world class level.
The MPs also demanded sanctions for the Talcher-Sambalpur-Jharsguda broad gauge link, Sambalpur-Titiligarh line and Koraput-Rayagada line. Besides, it also demanded that a wagon factory each at Ganjam, Kalahandi and at the Railway industry at Kantabanji.
Notably, the Centre, in its Railway Budget, has made a provision of `1,420 crore for various projects against Odisha’s demand of `3,160 crore.
“We, all BJD Members, met Railway Minister V Sadananda Gowda on July 15 and submitted a detailed list of Odisha’s demands, including national status to the Khordha-Balangir Railway line national status,” BJD MP Kalikesh Narayn Singh Deo told The Pioneer.
Singh Deo also informed that the Railway Minister announced in Parliament that he would convene a meeting with Odisha MPs soon.

Sunday, July 20, 2014


The Pioneer, July 18, 2014
The Government has proposed in its Budget speech to establish 100 smart cities across the nation, which is a very welcome step. However, the 100 smart cities scheme seems political eyewash.
It would actually serve no purpose in reducing large-scale rural migration to the existing cities, said Prof Digambara Patra of the American University of Beirut in a letter to Prime Minister Narendra Modi.
The non-resident Odia professor said that unless new cities are developed to accommodate the burgeoning number of people, the existing cities would soon become unlivable.
The influx of heavy population is absorbed mainly by a few mega cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Bangalore.
Nevertheless, when one looks at the list of 100 smart cities, the list indeed includes Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmadabad, etc. many of which are existing metro or tier II cities.
These are all large cities and if they are modernised they would not stop the rural-urban migration in India. Rather the Government should have taken the small cities in the list of the smart cities, he opined.
“Though your Government claims to reduce large scale migration to major cities from rural area, none of the 100 proposed cities exist in any of the rural area. In fact all of them are State capitals or existing commercial cities like Pune, Indore, Nagpur, Kochi, Cuttack, Rourkela etc,” he said.
The Government admits large scale migration from eastern and northern India as a major problem but at the same time, it forgets those eastern regions that suffer from rural migration.
KBK region in Odisha is well known nationally for large-scale labour and rural migration to various cities in India. Unfortunately, not a single town in KBK region has been included among the proposed 100 smart cities, he lamented.

Renal failure claims 2 more in Kalahandi

Dharitri, July 18, 2014
Orissa Post, July 18, 2014

Wednesday, July 16, 2014


The Pioneer, July 16, 2014
The National Human Rights Commission has sought reports from the Kalahandi Collector and Superintendent of Police and Karimnagar Collector of Andhra Pradesh over the death of a bonded labourer of Kalahandi district in Karimnagar in AP.
According to the newspaper report, one Kalia Bhoi (50) of Udepur in Golamunda block in Kalahandi district along with 35 persons of Udepur and Kanakpur villages of Khaliapali panchyat under Golamunda block had gone Karimnagar to work in brick kilns.Three dalals Mukunda Bhoi, Mantu Mangaraj and Lochan Bhoi and Dinabandhu Sunanai of Nuapada district were involved in transporting these bonded labourers to Karimpur in December last year.
But on June 1 this year, Kalia died in Karimnagar due to the merciless torture of the brick kiln owner while only four labourers managed to flee from Karimnagar.The commission has asked for a detailed report from the Karimnagar Collector, besides asking the Kalahandi Collector to collect detail about the deceased and to submit report within two weeks.
The commission also asked the Karimnagar Collector to prepare a report on status of bonded labourers.


The Pioneer, July 16, 2014
The Central Government has denied renewal of 100 seats in the Sardar Raja Medical College in Kalahandi along with 3,820 MBBS seats across the country for the academic session 2014-15.
The decision followed the recommendation of Medical Council of India (MCI), which recommended against renewal of permission for admission in 3,820 MBBS seats across 45 medical colleges in the country for 2014-15, said a Central Government Press release on Tuesday.

Letter to CM: House committee making politics on the location of second agriculture university

Dear Honorable Chief Minister Mr. Patnaik,
It is ridiculous that a committee of the assembly headed by BJD legislator Pramila Mallick has suggested establishment of a second agriculture university preferably at Semiliguda in Koraput district [1].

Development of Koraput region is very important and the region needs to be considered sympathetically while establishing new institutions, at the same time it should not be in expense of another equally backward and deserving region like Kalahandi.

BJD party’s indulgent in dividing people of KBK and Western Odisha to milk out the situation is regrettable. People of this region have not yet forgotten the earlier decision to shift proposed Central University of Orissa from Kalahandi to Koraput.

In your letter to the Prime Minister [2] yourself had argued that Odisha has only one university for agriculture and the workload of this university has gone up substantially in recent years and the state needs one more university. We were glad that you had taken positive interest in this aspect.

In fact, the very much same state government had asked Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology (OUAT) to submit a feasibility report to upgrade the Agriculture College at Kalahandi to the second agriculture university in the state as per the suggestion of former union agriculture minister Sharad Pawar [3] where former union agriculture minister had pointed thatdespite being a backward area, Kalahandi has emerged as one of the top producers of rice, cotton and pulses in the state and required advanced technology to meet the growing demand in the coming years.

Odisha agriculture minister had also recently announced that second Agriculture University of the state would come up at Bhawanipatna [4].

What it the present justification of the committee to establish at Koraput instead of Kalahandi, which already has an Agriculture College and has greater potential in agriculture development?

Apart from Kalahandi being one of the largest producers of agricultural products and growing fast in agriculture activities, Kalahandi is located centrally to all the KBK districts and also equally suits the interest of Kandhamal, Boudh, Gajapati and backward Padampur sub-division of Bargarh district. If the second Agriculture University of the state is to serve the KBK region as a whole, I do not think location wise any other place is as best suited as Kalahandi.

This recommendation of the committee is only to create confusion and make the water muddy. The dividing and rule policy adopted by BJD is threatening integrity of people of KBK in particular and Western Odisha in general. Because of such divisive policy neither KBK head quarter nor WODC office is able come up in this region.

Currently, the state Govt. has also been establishing multiple numbers of Govt. medical colleges, but struggle of Sardar Raja Medical College at Jaring is well known. MCI has been continuously critical about this institution. Although Sardar Raja Medical College started taking students last year, the MCI has not approved this college to take student in the current academic year [5]. The success of this college in private hand has often raised questions and local people’s appeal to take out this college from private hand towards a full fledges Government medical college is falling on deaf ears.

Every time Kalahandi has given a clean sweep victory to your leadership in the election, your party had betrayed Kalahandi. Last time it happened during establishment of Central University of Orissa, and this time again it is being repeated for the Second Agriculture University in the state.

If the state Government and your leadership genuinely want to see Kalahandi as the number ONE district as claimed in multiple occasions during your speech in Kalahandi, then the proposed Indian Institute of Management in Odisha could be located in Kalahandi.

Your personal interference is required to stop this practice of dividing people of KBK region for the larger interest of the state.

Thank you and best regards
Digambara Patra


Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Letter to PM: Government’s identified smart cities do not serve the purpose

Dear Honorable Prime Minister Mr. Modi,
The Govt. has proposed in its budget speech to establish 100 smart cities across the nation, which is a very welcome step, however, the proposed 100 smart cities presented by finance minister seems like a political eyewash rather than actually serving the purpose of reducing large-scale rural migration to existing cities.

The budget of your Govt. describes that “The Prime Minister’s vision of developing 100 smart cities as satellite towns of larger cities by modernizing the existing mid-sized cities…unless new cities are developed to accommodate the burgeoning number of people, the existing cities would soon become unlivable.”

Further, the Govt. very well realizes that increasing population burden on existing cities has been a major challenge and criticizes previous Government’s lack of proper vision on how to provide a better quality of life to the urban population. It adds migration of large number of job seekers from rural India, especially from northern and eastern States, highlights the gravity of situation. The influx of heavy population is absorbed mainly by a few mega cities like Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai, Pune, Chennai and Bangalore.

Nevertheless, when one looks at the list of 100 smart cities, the list indeed includes Kolkata, Mumbai, Chennai, Bangalore, Hyderabad, Pune, Ahmadabad, etc. many of which are existing metro or trier II cities.

It is confusing when the prime minister claim to modernize mid-size cities but in actual the Govt. has selected large size cities, some of which are among the largest cities in the world and are the actual reasons of existing problems.

Though your Govt’s budget claims to reduce large-scale migration to major cities from rural area, none of the 100 proposed cities exist in any of the rural area. In fact all of them are in state capitals or existing commercial cities like Pune, Indore, Nagpur, Kochi, Cuttack, Rourkela etc.

The Government admits large-scale migration from eastern and northern India, at the same time the Govt. forgets those eastern regions that suffer from rural migration. KBK region in Odisha is well known nationally for large-scale labor and rural migration to various cities in India. Often KBK region has been in news, unfortunately, not a single town in KBK region has been included among the proposed 100 smart cities when the state capital, Bhubaneswar, is located above 400 km from many parts of KBK region. Bhawanipatna is located centrally among the KBK districts; at least one town from KBK region could be included in the list.

On the other hand twin cities like Ahmedabad –Gandhi nagar, Cuttack-Bhubaneswar, etc. is included separately for the proposed smart cities. Such twin cities could be very well developed together as a large single conglomerate with metro facilities rather than separate entities.

Unless the Govt. takes a corrective step, the present identification of the proposed smart cities is clear eyewash to improve infrastructure of existing metro, state capitals, and trier II and III cities for the benefit of real estate mafia in those cities across the nation. Such proposal may help in few extent to improve infrastructure of the existing cities, however, it will at the same time increase further large-scale migration to the same cities without meeting the actual objectives of the proposed smart cities.

Anticipating your appropriate correction in this matter

Thank you and best regards

Digambara Patra

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Strange action by Junagarh police

Reported by Sri Debendra Bisi
Sambad, July 13, 2014

Villagers met SP alleging police not taking appropriate step

Reported by Sri Debendra Bisi
Sambad, July 12, 2014

NREGA scam in Kalahandi: Wages paid for planting of trees that do not exist

DNA, July 11, 2014
The NDA government has leased a new life into the flagship programme of the last UPA government, the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act (MNREGA) which provides 100 days of work to rural workers who wish to claim it. It is difficult to oppose the Act in principle. In a country where right to life is an inviolable fundamental right for the people, many would argue that right to food and work would also be inviolable. 
But there has been much protests against the Act as well. While some including Rajastha chief minister Vasundhara Raje want it to be made into a scheme and not a law, there are few who complain the wages have been spiraling due to the Act. However, the biggest issue in the implementation of the Act has been the corruption charges, the latest added to that list being Kalahandi district in Orissa. 
Zee News reported that recently the funds to plant trees under the NREGA scheme in Kalahandi were siphoned by few officials as the the trees were never planted. Though on papers, money has been paid to workers under the scheme for planting trees, in reality, physically no trees exist.
This is also not the first instance of such scam in Orissa. In 2007, a group of researchers led by well known economists Jean Dreze and Ritika Khera found muster rolls that had fake finger prints of fake labourers. The survey was being carried out in the districts of Kalahandi, Bolangir and Boudh. The panchayat executive officer was suspended and enquiry ordered. The Supreme Court while hearing a civil writ petition had even asked why it should not call for SBI probe in a scam that was pegged at Rs 500 crore.
A second survey in 2011 showed that in Orissa and UP, 67 percent of the poorest Dalit and tribal households did not get even a day's work in the past one year. SImilarly, more than a third of them did not even have access to the public distribution system.    
The latest Economic Survey by the finance ministry also called for an overhaul of the system. It says, "Though the act is panchayat-centric and demand based, on the ground there is lack of principal role in planning, execution and monitoring by the panchayati raj institutions (PRI's) especially the gram sabha". Also the wages are in some places lower than market wages, which means mainly women come to take up jobs.
The corruption in implementing a social sector scheme is its biggest evil. On the one hand, if people who need it the most are not getting access to the government schemes, the argument of the rise in rural wages because of the scheme can be challenged. On the other hand, any modification of the scheme to make it more targeted and remove pilferage will be difficult. Those who need to implement the change are the ones who benefit the most from the current system.
NREGA is not just a subsidy scheme from the government unlike say, the mid-day meal scheme, because the state does not assume just a patronising role here. People are actually working to earn their wages. The government must work towards making the scheme efficient because both the state and the rural poor need it. The state sets a minimum wage and gets workers to work towards asset creating, while the poor have access to jobs with humane wages during the lean season or otherwise.
The new government has followed the UPA path in terms of allocation of funds. But it must take a completely different route to make this work.